Tag Archives: Russia

Court Filing Indicates FBI Has Active Investigation Pertaining to Donald Trump’s Call for Russian Hacking and Espionage

Court Filing Indicates FBI Has Active Investigation Pertaining to Donald Trump’s Call for Russian Hacking and Espionage

President Trump’s May 9, 2017 letter firing now-former FBI Director James Comey in part reads, “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation[.]”

However, a recent court filing by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FBI in an ongoing FOIA lawsuit plainly indicates the FBI has an active investigation pertaining to Donald Trump’s actions related to actual or potential election-related hacking and espionage by Russia.

The lawsuit is filed by Ryan Shapiro, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate/Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University research affiliate, and Jason Leopold, Senior Investigative Journalist at BuzzFeed News.

An excerpt from Donald Trump’s termination letter to James Comey.  You can read Donald Trump’s full letter along with accompanying letters from AG Jeff Sessions, and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein HERE

On August 18, 2016, Shapiro and Leopold submitted a FOIA request to the FBI seeking “disclosure of any and all records, including investigative records, mentioning or referring to Donald J. Trump’s statement on 27 July, 2016 [regarding Secretary Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails], ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ and ‘I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’”

When the FBI did not respond in a timely manner to the FOIA request, Shapiro and Leopold sued. During the lawsuit, the FBI initially asserted that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents responsive to this FOIA request.

Excerpt from the Joint Status Report that indicates that there is an active FBI investigation.  Read the full status report HERE

However, the FBI subsequently withdrew this position and agreed to search for the requested documents. Again, the documents requested by Shapiro and Leopold are records, including investigative records, mentioning or referring to a public statement made personally by Donald J. Trump, not his advisors, surrogates, or campaign staff.

Excerpt from the Joint Status Report that indicates that there is an active FBI investigation. Read the full status report HERE

In a court filing in this case on April 6, 2017, a Justice Department attorney representing the FBI informed the Court that there is an “active, ongoing investigation” pertaining to this matter and claimed that disclosing the “records that are responsive to the Russia Request” could reasonably be expected to interfere with “enforcement proceedings.” (As noted elsewhere in the DOJ/FBI’s new filing, the term “Russia Request” refers explicitly to Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request quoted above.) The DOJ/FBI’s new court filing acknowledges the existence of records responsive to Shapiro and Leopold’s “Russia Request”, and claimed that all, or virtually all, of these documents cannot be released because of the potential to interfere with active law enforcement proceedings.

On April 7, 2017, the Court set a deadline of July 25, 2017 for the FBI to file a motion explaining the basis for its claim that release of documents responsive to “the Russia Request” would interfere with an ongoing law enforcement operation.

The lawsuit is Case 1:16-cv-01827-KBJ. It is being heard in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Documents

  1. Read the Joint Status Report in 1:16-cv-01827-KBJ HERE 
  2. Read Comey’s termination letter from Trump, Sessions & Rosenstein HERE

About Operation 45

Ryan Shapiro, referred to by Politico as “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”, is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) at MIT, as well as a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Shapiro is also the co-founder and president of the new transparency organization Operation 45. The Nation has described Operation 45 as “a ray of hope in these dark political times.”

Jason Leopold is an award-winning Senior Investigative Reporter at Buzzfeed News, specializing in counterterrorism and human rights. Leopold has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Shapiro and Leopold are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney, Jeffrey Light.

You can follow Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro, and Jason Leopold on twitter at @JasonLeopold.

You can support Operation 45’s efforts HERE

Congress Votes for Corruption by Overturning Historic Transparency Law in Gift to Big Oil

Congress Votes for Corruption by Overturning Historic Transparency Law in Gift to Big Oil

Washington, DC — Today’s decision by the Republican-led U.S. Senate to overturn a rule designed to stop oil companies striking corrupt deals with foreign governments is a grave threat to U.S. national security and an astonishing gift to big oil, said Global Witness. The news comes just two days after Rex Tillerson, a longstanding opponent of the law while CEO of ExxonMobil, was confirmed as Secretary of State, and the day after the U.S. eased sanctions on Russia.

The oil industry is the most corrupt on the planet. Alongside a broader anti-regulatory push and President Trump’s failure to address his conflicts of interest, this vote to roll back efforts to bring oil deals into the open is another sign of the rapid erosion of U.S. democracy in favor of big business.

The law, known as the Cardin-Lugar transparency provision, requires U.S.-listed extractive companies like Exxon, Chevron and several Chinese oil majors to publish details of the hundreds of billions of dollars they pay to governments across the world in return for rights to natural resources. Bringing shady oil deals to light should help ensure these vast public revenues benefit all instead of lining the pockets of corrupt elites. However, this week, Congress voted to rescind the implementing regulation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, with the House of Representatives voting on Wednesday and the Senate voting earlier today.

“As Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson did everything in his power to gut this law, because it doesn’t suit big oil’s corrupt business model. Now he’s Secretary of State Congress has immediately sanctioned corruption by green lighting secret deals between oil companies and despots. These deals deprive some of the world’s poorest people of oil wealth that is rightfully theirs. Given the President’s massive conflicts of interest and his administration’s broad attacks on regulation, it appears our institutions are increasingly being abused to further the business interests of a powerful few. This is how corrupt dictatorships start,” said Corinna Gilfillan, Head of U.S. Office of Global Witness.

Crude oil pollution has created irreparable harm to Nigeria’s Niger River Delta. Global Witness recently highlighted how a questionable oil deal between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government is currently being investigated by Nigerian law enforcement. | Photo: AFP

This move sets the U.S. in opposition to a broader global trend toward greater transparency and accountability in how oil, gas and mining revenues are managed. Thirty other major economies around the world, including the UK, Canada, Norway and all 27 members of the European Union – have laws requiring their oil, gas and mining companies to disclose their payments to governments. Dozens of major European and Russian oil companies have already published their payments to governments. Claims made by the oil lobby that greater transparency will harm U.S. oil companies’ competitiveness has proven untrue.

Global Witness notes with concern the complete fabrication of facts by the Republican leadership in their presentations about the Cardin-Lugar transparency provision.  They have relied on the American Petroleum Institute’s “facts,” which have been discredited over the past six years in multiple fora, while being totally unwilling to hear an alternative view. This is evidenced by their absence during the actual debate, not to mention the fact that many in the leadership who have pushed this resolution receive vast sums from the oil and gas industry. In the absence of a better explanation, it is difficult not to conclude that big oil has just had its lackeys liberate them to be corrupt.

“The U.S. has thrown away its global leadership on tackling corruption. Oil, gas and mining companies from other countries have already disclosed over $150 billion in payments under similar rules, meaning citizens can begin to hold their governments to account. If they can do it, you have to ask – what have the U.S. companies got to hide?” said Gilfillan. The law was finally implemented in 2016 after being passed in 2010 as part of the Dodd Frank reform act. It was implemented following a broad campaign from civil society groups, investors and community leaders all over the world.

Prior to the vote, Bishop Cantu, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “Transparency in extractive industry payments to governments is important to us as leaders of the Catholic community of faith and institutions that are investors and consumers. We believe these principles, policies, and rules can help protect the lives, dignity and rights of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. The rules have moral and human consequences as well as economic and political impact.”

Republican Vote to Eliminate Landmark Transparency Law Jeopardizes National Security

Republican Vote to Eliminate Landmark Transparency Law Jeopardizes National Security

Washington, DC — Today’s vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to undo a rule designed to stop corruption in the oil industry poses a grave threat to U.S. national security, said Global Witness today. 

The oil industry is the most corrupt on the planet, according to the OECD. Yet today the House of Representatives voted through a resolution to void the rule implementing the bipartisan Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption provision, which requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose details of the hundreds of billions of dollars they pay to governments across the world in return for rights to natural resources.

“Make no mistake – this vote by the Republican-controlled House works in favor of corruption and against core American democratic values. The law under threat exists to deter U.S. listed oil, gas and mining companies from cutting secretive deals with corrupt regimes, tyrants and dictators all over the world – undoing it threatens our national security,” said Corinna Gilfillan, Head of U.S. Office at Global Witness.

Children sail past an oil pipeline head near their home at Andoni settlement, Bonny waterways in Rivers State in Nigeria. Global Witness recently highlighted how a questionable oil deal between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government is currently being investigated by Nigerian law enforcement. | Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei AFP/Getty Images

“Rex Tillerson led efforts to undermine this law as ExxonMobil CEO, while many of the politicians in the House who voted to gut it receive money from the oil companies who have benefited from these secret deals. Now on the same day that the House voted to undo this provision, the Senate has confirmed Tillerson as Secretary of State – we have a pro-bribery House and Trump administration doing the bidding of big oil.”

This comes just days after Nigeria’s anti-corruption law enforcement agency seized a billion dollar oil block from Shell and Eni during a corruption investigation. Had the U.S. anti-corruption rule been in place in 2011, this crooked deal would never have gone through, leaving the companies’ investors and the Nigerian people much better off.  The deal itself deprived Nigeria’s people of a sum worth 80% of its 2015 healthcare budget. Given that the block in question is estimated to hold as much as 9.23 billion barrels in probable reserves, investors face substantial losses from a backroom deal they knew nothing about.

Global Witness recently highlighted how a questionable oil deal between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government is currently being investigated by Nigerian law enforcement.

The Senate is expected to vote on a similar resolution as early as tomorrow. The news follows President Trump’s signing of executive orders designed to force through the environmentally devastating Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines last week.

8 Federal Agencies Sued for Records on Trump Attorney General Pick, Jeff Sessions

8 Federal Agencies Sued for Records on Trump Attorney General Pick, Jeff Sessions

WASHINGTON, DC — Multiple federal agencies are in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate/Harvard Klein Center for Internet & Society research affiliate, Ryan Shapiro, filed a lawsuit this morning against the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of State (DOS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Security Agency (NSA). The suit is over the agencies’ failure to comply with Shapiro and Leopold’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Shapiro and Leopold submitted FOIA requests to the DOJ, DOS, DHS, DOD, SEC, EEOC, EPA, and NSA for records pertaining to President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Jeff Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General is one of the most controversial in American history. Sessions has an extensive track record of opposition to civil rights and civil rights activists, and has decried the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a “piece of intrusive legislation.” Hounded for decades by allegations of deep-rooted racism, Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 by the Senate Judiciary Committee partially on the sworn statement of a DOJ attorney who testified that Sessions spoke favorably of the Ku Klux Klan and decried the NAACP and ACLU as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” organizations. Further, the Republicans are forcing President Trump’s nominees through the confirmation process with only the most limited and superficial of hearings.

The records Shapiro and Leopold have sued over today will help shed light on the often obscured detailed of Sessions’ history as a state and federal Attorney General and as lawmaker.

1.) Records sought by Shapiro and Leopold include but are not limited to:

* Correspondence and other communications from, to, mentioning, or referring to Jeff Sessions. 

* Records authored or signed by Jeff Sessions regarding Civil Rights cases.

* Records constituting, mentioning, or referring to Civil Rights complaints involving Jeff Sessions

* Records pertaining to the conservative political action committee (PAC) Judicial Crisis Network, which is dedicated to securing confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General.

* Records pertaining to confirmsession.com, a website and project of Judicial Crisis Network dedicated to securing confirmation of Sessions as Attorney General.

2.) Due to the urgency of the matter, Shapiro and Leopold requested expedited processing of their FOIA requests. The DOJ, DOS, DHS, DOD, SEC, EEOC, EPA, and NSA failed to respond. This is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

3.) Not including this new lawsuit, Shapiro and Leopold already have four FOIA lawsuits against the FBI and other federal agencies for records on investigations involving Donald Trump.

In the first of these lawsuits, among other things, Operation 45 is suing the FBI and Secret Service for records on Donald Trump’s thinly-veiled assassination remarks regarding Hillary Clinton, and his less than veiled campaign trail call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The FBI unlawfully failed to respond to Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request, and then slow-walked an initial response to Shapiro and Leopold’s lawsuit until after the election.

Notably, the FBI’s response indicates the FBI might indeed be investigating Donald Trump for these incidents. However, in stark contrast to Director Comey’s pre-election rush to inform Congress that the FBI might re-open its investigation of Hillary Clinton, in this case the FBI dragged its feet to avoid revealing the same about Donald Trump until after the election.

4.) In the second of these lawsuits, Operation 45 is suing the FBI for all FBI records on the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, Trump Entertainment Resorts, and Trump University.

5.) In the third of these lawsuits, Operation 45 is suing the FBI for records on the FBI’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

6.) In the fourth of these lawsuits, Operation 45 is suing, the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for records on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as U.S. intelligence agency responses to Russian interference in the election.

7.) Shapiro and Leopold’s lawsuit filed today is part of the work of Operation 45. Operation 45 is a new 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded by MIT/Harvard’s Shapiro, and attorney Jeffrey Light, to ensure transparency and accountability for the incoming Trump/Pence administration.

Ryan Shapiro, referred to by Politico as “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”, is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) at MIT, as well as a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Jason Leopold is an award-winning Senior Investigative Reporter at Buzzfeed News, specializing in counterterrorism and human rights. Leopold has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Leopold and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

According to Shapiro

Regarding this lawsuit:

“The American public absolutely deserves to the know the truth about the man Trump has nominated to hold one of the most powerful offices in the country, especially in light of the allegations of deep-rooted prejudice and contempt for civil liberties that have hounded Sessions for decades.”

Regarding Operation 45 (Of which this lawsuit is a part):

“Given Trump’s authoritarian aspirations and overt contempt for the Constitution and a free press, American civil liberties and privacy now face a profoundly clear and present danger.

“Trump must not be allowed to conduct his presidency from the shadows, and he must not be allowed to cripple the Freedom of Information act. The need is urgent for aggressive work to keep President Trump and his administration transparent and accountable.”

Regarding FOIA more broadly:

“Secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy.

“The democratic process cannot meaningfully function without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government.

“The Freedom of Information Act is one of the most underappreciated elements of the entire American experiment. The notion that the records of government are the property of the people, and all we need to do to get them is to ask, is radically democratic. But FOIA is broken. Sadly, this is why we now need to sue to compel FBI compliance with federal law.”

A complete copy of the complaint filed in court can be viewed HERE

To arrange an interview with Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. You can follow Jason Leopold on twitter at @JasonLeopold and Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro

Trump uses First Days to Roll Back Oil Sector Regulations, Green Light Keystone XL & Dakota Access Pipelines

Trump uses First Days to Roll Back Oil Sector Regulations, Green Light Keystone XL & Dakota Access Pipelines

Washington, DC — The past 24 hours have seen an unprecedented number of gifts to Exxon and the oil industry, said Global Witness today. Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved former CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, to lead the State Department. Today, it is expected that Republicans in the House of Representatives will introduce a resolution to wipe out an historic oil transparency reform, while President Trump signed executive orders designed to force through the environmentally devastating Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines despite years of opposition.

“Just one day after the committee vote in support of former Exxon CEO as next Secretary of State, the oil industry is enjoying an unprecedented free for all,” said Corinna Gilfillan, Head of U.S. Office of Global Witness. “Today, Trump issued executive orders to advance the Dakota and Keystone Pipelines while Republicans are expected to attempt to gut a law designed to curb corruption, despite Trump’s signature campaign promise to root out corruption. Exxon has been trying to rip up this law for years, it’s not a coincidence.”

The resolution would roll back a landmark anti-corruption law, known as the bipartisan Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption provision, which requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose details of the hundreds of billions of dollars they pay to governments across the world in return for rights to natural resources. The rule is a key part of U.S. efforts to curb the corruption that keeps poor countries poor and threatens U.S. national interests and global security around the world.

The ExxonMobil operated East Area Natural Gas Liquids II (NGL II) project offshore Nigeria is the target of a Nigerian criminal corruption probe and involves the recovery of 275 million barrels of natural gas liquids, with peak production targeted at about 50,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day. | Photo: Business Wire

“Given the long-standing egregious record of the oil and gas industry, and now the likely confirmation of the former Exxon CEO as the top U.S. diplomat, it is difficult to not conclude that these pro-corruption moves by the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are a sign that not only do they think corruption is perfectly acceptable but that they intend to become pro-active enablers of corruption,” said Simon Taylor, co-founding director of Global Witness.

ExxonMobil is spearheading industry efforts to gut the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption provision, which would bring much needed transparency to the secret deals that ExxonMobil and other resource companies do with corrupt regimes, fueling instability around the world.

Global Witness recently highlighted how a questionable oil deal between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian government is currently being investigated by Nigerian law enforcement

For additional information or to request an interview with a Global Witness spokesperson contact Andy Stepanian at 631.291.3010 or andy@sparrowmedia.net